A pregnant girl who sought an abortion in Ireland was denied a termination and sectioned against her will under the Mental Health Act, it has been revealed.
The unnamed teen and her mother were under the impression she was being transferred to a Dublin hospital for an abortion late last year but instead she was detained on a psychiatric ward, the Child Care Law Reporting Project reports.
A consultant psychiatrist who assessed the girl said that while she was at risk of self harm and suicide as a result of the pregnancy, they thought “this could be managed by treatment” and abortion was “not the solution” to all her problems, the report states. An order was then made for the girl to be sectioned in a psychiatric ward.
Ireland’s abortion ban:
- From the moment of conception, terminations are illegal even in cases of rape, incest or ill health of the mother – unless there is a “real and substantial risk to the mother's life, as distinct from the health of the mother”
A court guardian arguing for the pregnant girl’s release requested a second psychiatrist assess her. They said she had “very strong views” as to why she wanted an abortion and concluded that being depressed did not mean she could be detained under the Mental Health Act.
The child was released after several days of being detained when a district court ruled that she "no longer had a mental health disorder."
“Looking at the report, it’s hard not to think that the [first] psychiatrist in this case essentially used the Mental Health Act as a tool to force a child into continuing an unwanted pregnancy because of their own personal beliefs,” Abortion Rights Campaign spokesperson Linda Kavanagh told the Irish Mirror.
“It is clear we need some process which ensures medical professionals with such conscientious objections cannot block timely health care in critical cases,” she added.
However, John Hillery, the president of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland, told the Irish Independent it is unfair to put psychiatrists in a position of deciding whether a distressed woman or girl should have an abortion “when it is a political issue that should be decided in wider society”.
The National Women's Council of Ireland said the case "highlighted the medical unworkability of the Eighth Amendment, and the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act."
Pro-life campaigners said pro-choice campaigners were “grossly irresponsible” for using the case to attack the Eighth Amendment.
Incoming Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has promised to hold a referendum on abortion rights next year.